i-D: 5 dominatrices explain the rules of consent

Stigmas surrounding sex work persevere in nearly every corner of the globe. As a result, the sexualized power dynamics in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) practices are often misunderstood. At the end of the day BDSM is not about control like many people think — it’s about exploring the boundaries of pleasure in a safe and consensual way.

“People can learn a lot from the BDSM and sex work community about consent and talking about sex in an open and supportive way without judgement,” said Lucy Sweetkill, a dominatrix based in New York.

Consent plays a huge role in any BDSM scene, whether it’s between two romantic partners or a dominatrix and a client. Not only do clients and professionals consent to the specifics of any session before it begins through both dialogue and paperwork, BDSM sessions require constant communication and the reestablishing of boundaries and safety. BDSM professionals use safe words, check-ins, and reading of facial expressions, and body language to ensure that their clients are safe and comfortable for the duration of the session.

i-D spoke with 5 dominatrices from around the globe about consent in the BDSM scene and their thoughts on empowering women through sex.

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5 Dominatrices explain the rules of consent by Mary Retta

May 30th, 2019

HUFFPOST: Dear White Guys - Your Asian Fetish is Showing

Lillian, a 20-something who lives in New York and Boston, is a single Asian American woman who actively dates. Needless to say, her Tinder inbox is a hot mess.

There are the inevitable “What is your nationality? and “What are you?” messages. And there are a ton of racially charged thirsty DMs: “I’ll eat your pussy like shrimp fried rice,” one says. “I want to try my first Asian woman.”

Sure, sexually explicit messages and unsolicited dick pics are par for the course for women on dating apps, but for women of color, including Asian women, it’s almost always significantly worse.

“Most of my single white friends receive only a taste of what I get on Tinder,” said Lillian, who asked that her last name be withheld for privacy reasons.

“No man has ever opened with how white women are so ‘exotic’ or opened with an assumption about how white vaginas are different from other vaginas,” she told HuffPost. “None of these messages have the same intense preoccupation with race.”

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Dear White Guys: Your Asian Fetish is Showing by Brittany Wong

May 29, 2019

PSYCHOLOGY TODAY: Sexual Satisfaction in BDSM

BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance/submission, sadism-masochism) seems to be a topic of immense fascination for laypeople and social scientists alike. Although in the past the practice has been stigmatized as deviant, and a reflection of psychopathology, there is growing evidence that consensual BDSM practices may actually be a healthy way that many people express their inner sexual desires and fantasies. A recent study (Botta, Nimbi, Tripodi, Silvaggi, & Simonelli, 2019) examined sexual satisfaction and functioning among BDSM practitioners and found that not only do practitioners appear to be well-adjusted, some, particularly those who prefer the dominant role, appear to be more satisfied with their sexuality than non-practitioners. The reasons are not yet known, but it may be because those in the dominant role may have personality traits that are particularly conducive to good mental health.

A growing body of research has explored the psychological aspects of BDSM. I have reviewed a few of the relevant studies in previous posts (hereand here). BDSM encompasses a wide range of practices typically associated with control, humiliation, physical restriction, and role playing (Botta et al., 2019). Typically, practitioners adopt particular roles during their activities, most commonly either as a “dominant” who exerts control over others, or a “submissive” who consents to being controlled. Some people have a fixed preference for either role, while some people are “switches” who prefer to alternate between these roles. The actual practices people may engage in are extraordinarily diverse, and while some practitioners may only engage in a few preferred activities, others may experiment flexibly with a wide array of scenarios. Although there seems to be a popular idea that BDSM is something only a few odd individuals engage in, surveys have shown that it is far more common: Between 10 and 50% of people surveyed have admitted to engaging in some form of it and many more at least fantasize about it (Coppens, Brink, Huys, Fransen, & Morrens, 2019).

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Sexual Satisfaction in BDSM by Scott A. McGreal MSc.

May 29th, 2019

AUTOSTRADDLE: View From The Top: From Physical to Psychological

Three things. Three little things brought our play from “what kind of things do you want to play with” to “I like sex that is kind of, you know… rough” to “what have you always wanted to do, but haven’t yet” to “I would so love to do those things with you” to “I’ve always wanted someone to play with like this” — from physical to psychological.

The psychology was always an undercurrent. It can feel profound to be doing rough, dirty things. When I played with Sarah*, I felt surges of strength when overpowering her physically, pushing her body around, throwing her onto the bed, holding her down, watching red marks rise where I’d smacked or grabbed or punched. I saw the lust in her eyes as she watched me. Her mouth open, breath deep.

We had our tastes of surrendering and surges long before we started to add the play of our minds. But when we changed the game a little, and added just a few little things, our play soared to new mountain summits I hadn’t even known we could reach, or let alone want.

I held her down, both hands around her wrists above her head. She was moaning, but it was late and the walls in my apartment were tissue-paper thin. My roommate was annoyed enough at my late night sexcapades.

I put my hand over her mouth. “Don’t make a sound,” I ordered. Her eyes widened. Underneath me, her hips moved, that gentle rubbing where she tried to get her clit against the seam of her jeans. She liked this.


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View From the Top: From Physical to Psychological by Sinclair Sexsmith

January 3, 2017

AUTOSTRADDLE: Bottoms Up: Denial

Ellie and I had been playing together consistently for months, and I trusted her enough that, one evening, I told her we didn’t need to check in as often during sex. I wanted her to do something new to my body or take something away from me without telling me first. I wanted room for surprise. When I’m a bottom, I don’t need an advance play-by-play because I’m not in charge; I leave my incessant need for control on the floor with my clothes.

The next time we met up, she suggested blindfolding me, to which I readily agreed. I was not only exchanging far fewer verbal cues; I also couldn’t pick up on visual ones. All I knew was it felt like electricity when she touched me literally anywhere and I was aching for each and every perfect moment of contact. And then, when I felt like I wasn’t going to think about anything but the way her tongue felt on my neck ever again, she said, “Don’t come until I say so.”

I tried to close my legs but she had me completely at her mercy. The environment turned me on so much at that moment, but I didn’t come. I don’t know if it was the direct order from Ellie or my anticipation, but I was having a blast.

I was so into the denial because I thrive on instructions...


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Bottoms Up: Denial by Al(aina)

January 25, 2017

AUTOSTRADDLE: A Balance In Subspace

I always looked for opportunities to transcend myself and become another being. But I only began to toy with the intricacies of submission recently, when reading smut on my phone when I got some alone time in the bathroom wasn’t cutting it. What started out as playful kink and bed restraints turned into me begging my partner for demeaning words and rules. While a natural top, they had to shift and stretch to become the dominant I thought I wanted.

My partner enabled me to sink into subspace, letting me become the “whore” or “bad girl” I so desperately wanted to be for them. At first, I worried about asking too much. I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable. They didn’t want to hurt me, degrade me. Given my history of abuse, it was hard to grasp my need to be controlled. But, as we discovered together, I am righteously empowered by being submissive.

Beneath them, and their commands, I gained true control by letting go. Whenever they took me, they erased my compulsory need for calculated information. My mind clear and pulsing, I forgot to clench into fear and insecurity. I internally climbed beyond myself until I reached cathartic nothingness — just flesh and heat and equanimity. I erupted in the release of myself. I found blistering strength, goaded by the pain and honesty of feeling completely consumed.

At the end of every scene, we reconnected outside of our headspaces. I easily slipped out of my submission and into the arms of the person I cared for. This natural transition was sacred and fiery. Sometimes I muttered something about having no more dry underwear from so much sexy time, and we ordered in Thai food.

And then, in the middle of exploring kink more deeply together, I took on a summer job abroad. We could not see each other, but our relationship and sexual understanding grew beyond physical touch. We played with the word “Daddy.” Even though masturbation has always been a challenge for me, I finally learned how to make myself come with the fantasy of unconditionally giving over my body to please my dominant. I got off to the visual of myself begging on my knees for another spanking. I felt powerful and in control of my body’s desire for deviance. As the summer continued, I built it up, asking my partner for more and more degradation. I started to ask for submission outside of the bedroom. Just the idea of being told to eat a bowl of cereal or to wait before speaking made me frantic. I was getting so deep into this world, meditating in my bodily freedom.


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A Balance In Subspace by Guest

February 15, 2017

AUTOSTRADDLE: I’m a Submissive Brat and No, That’s Not a Contradiction

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a brat. When I was young, toddler-age, it was seen as an adorable quirk. Who knew such a little girl could be so stubborn and strong-willed? As I got older, I noticed a shift in tone when they called me a brat. It was often accompanied by accusations of being bossy, a drama queen, and — as I approached adolescence — a bitch. Over time I learned to read between the lines of these words. I realized that bossy was just another word for assertive, drama queen a sneaky way to repress my emotions, and bitch an attempt to make me feel small. Instead of growing out of my brattiness as my mother had always hoped I would, I decided to own it instead.

That’s not to say that I throw a tantrum when I don’t get my way or am incapable of discussing matters like an adult. I like to think of myself as more mischievous and sassy than outright rude or immature. In my day-to-day life my brattiness shows up as snark and a tendency to play devil’s advocate. It wasn’t until I entered the BDSM scene five years ago that I learned to express it in new and unexpected ways.

I’ve always gravitated to power exchange dynamics in my relationships, even before I had a language for it. My favorite fantasies involved punishment and I enjoyed egging my partner on. I craved that push and pull for control, and the vulnerability of relinquishing to my partner.

I was first introduced to the concept of brattiness in BDSM by my friend Brandon. He was working for a sex therapist and lived in a downtown warehouse with the rest of her crew. On Friday nights she hosted a radio show and he’d often invite me to attend as his guest. I was still too shy to participate at that point, but through observation I was introduced to the limitless options outside of a monogamous, vanilla lifestyle.


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I'm a Submissive Brat and No, That's Not a Contradiction by Danielle

August 10, 2017

HUFF POST: This Is What My Life Is Like As The Highest Earning Legal Sex Worker In The U.S.

I describe myself as the country’s highest-earning worker in the world’s oldest profession, by which I mean I make more than any other sex worker at any legal brothel in the U.S.

Cue the raised eyebrows, contemptuous stares and not-so-subtle judgment. Bring on the intense curiosity, too ― because I am a novelty. Everyone has their preconceived notions of what a sex worker looks, sounds and acts like, but I don’t fit any of those stereotypes. I’m a petite Irish lady standing just 4 feet, 8 inches tall. I’m well-educated and well-spoken. I’m not the victim of tragic circumstance. I had options and I chose to be a legal sex worker. Yes, on purpose! Despite sex work being so highly stigmatized, I love my job because I get to help people rediscover personal connections and intimacy.

I didn’t grow up wanting to be a lady of the night. I tried many different career paths — including a brief stint as a horse jockey! — but I struggled to find work that combined my love for human interaction with something that made me feel passion. Nothing ever felt as fulfilling as working in a legal brothel. It fits me perfectly.

As a sapiosexual, I learned early on that I am attracted to the minds of the people I’m around with no concern for their physical bodies. I feel no shame about my sexuality, trying new things or being attracted to more than one person at a time. It also helps that I am able to sexually enjoy multiple relationships at once. So three years ago I went to the world-famous Moonlite Bunny Ranch (“Cathouse” on HBO, anyone?) just outside Carson City, Nevada. At first, I only planned to stay for a couple of months. I never left.

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This Is What My Life Is Like As The Highest Earning Legal Sex Worker In The U.S. by Alice Little

Mary 23, 2019

ALLURE: A Beginner's Guide to Balloon Fetishes, Straight From an Actual Looner

What comes to mind when you hear the word "balloon"? Perhaps it's a birthday party or dance floor filled with balloons, the movie It, or a memory from a childhood birthday party, or maybe you noticed Jemima Kirke wore a dress depicting the word "looner" to the 2019 Met Gala and wondered what that means. For some folks, a balloon is an erotic object — a source of much pleasure and delight.

The balloon fetish community calls themselves "looners," and they demonstrate the many shapes sexuality and kink come in. While it's difficult to pinpoint exactly when balloon kinks hit the scene, it's likely it happened as soon as people had access to them, which happened around 1824, when a London-based scientist named Michael Faraday invented rubber balloons.

The next year, Faraday partnered with a rubber company to sell make-your-own-balloon kits. In the book Deviant Desires: A Tour of the Erotic Edge, published in 2019, author Katharine Gates describes first learning of the fetish over 20 years ago through a website called Balloon Buddies. While the fetish has thrived in online communities since the ’90s, it has likely existed as long as rubber balloon manufacturing has been a thing.

Below, let us pop some myths about what exactly this fetish is — and what it isn't.

What does a balloon fetish entail?

As with any kink, there is no one-size-fits-all model for looners. According to Brandon, known as TheBalloonGuy on the kinky social media site FetLife, there are "poppers" (those who enjoy the sound and experience of a balloon popping) and "non-poppers," who admire the balloons and dislike seeing them popped. "I am in the middle ground, a semi-popper, in that I love seeing members of the opposite sex interact with balloons, including popping them," Brandon says. "But I find it difficult to pop balloons myself. I love being teased with balloons and effectively melt into a squirmy puddle of gooey submissiveness if someone is coming very close to popping a balloon."


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A Beginner's Guide to Balloon Fetishes, Straight from an Actual Looner by Sophie St. Thomas

May 22, 2019

THE BIG ISSUE: Nurses to campaign for the decriminalisation of sex work

The UK’s biggest nursing union will lobby ministers to decriminalise sex work after a landmark motion was passed by a huge majority at its annual conference.

Louise Cahill, the nurse specialist in sexual health who was behind the proposed Royal College of Nursing (RCN) policy, said decriminalising sex work is vital if sex workers’ safety and health is to be protected.

She told the conference that sex workers avoid seeking health care for fear of prosecution, and don’t report assaults for similar reason.

Cahill said: “Current UK law makes it a criminal offence for sex workers to work together for safety. Brothel keeping is defined as just two or more sex workers working together.

“Therefore, sex workers have to choose between keeping safe and getting arrested. No one should be put in danger by the law.”

The nurse added that decriminalisation would reduce the number of HIV cases among sex workers because they could better negotiate safer sex.

She said: “Lending our voice to support a stigmatised and marginalised group was not only the right thing to do but will lead to improved health outcomes.”

Figures show that nearly nine in 10 of the estimated 70,000 sex workers in the UK are women, according to the English Collective of Prostitutes.

RCN public health lead Helen Donovan expressed frustration that the “political appetite to fund sexual health services targeting sex workers isn’t there,” but that as nurses they had a responsibility to “serve the needs of society’s most vulnerable”.

The RCN will lobby politicians in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff to push through the policy to safeguard sex workers.

But Abigail Lawrence, a nurse from the east of England, opposed the move. She described sex work as “exploitative, manipulative and based on coercion”.

New Zealand decriminalised sex work in 2003, but put strengthened laws against compelling or coercing people into the industry.

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Nurses to campaign for decriminalisation of sex work by Hannah Westwater

May 21, 2019